The decline of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 coupled with high vaccination rates prompted the Raleigh City Council to vote to return to in-person meetings in two weeks. 

“Any movement toward getting back to normal is welcome at this point,” council member Patrick Buffkin said during the council’s virtual meeting Tuesday. “If we have to do it slowly that’s fine, too, but I’m glad we’re getting on with it.”

In recent months, hospitalizations statewide more than doubled and new daily lab-confirmed cases of the virus leaped from around 5,000 to more than 25,000. But following the unprecedented surge of the virus beginning in December, case numbers seem to be safely on the decline, staff officials reported.

At the meeting, council member Corey Branch suggested the council hold its regularly scheduled meetings—on the first and third Tuesday of the month—in person starting in March, while keeping work sessions and committee sessions remote until April. 

Council member Nicole Stewart said she’d be fine with moving all meetings to in-person, as fewer folks attend committee and advisory board meetings. Council member Stormie Forte said she still planned to wear a mask inside during meetings, and so did David Cox, who asked if there would be masking guidelines. 

Staff is already working on crafting those guidelines, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. 

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